You’re sitting at your desk, decompressing from the last event and your boss walks in with your next assignment: an appreciation event for customers and/or employees. Sound exciting or scary? Maybe a little of both, but let’s get you to a place of comfort, excitement and success!

Appreciation events cater to the attendee. This event will be used to thank a group of people that have made your company successful (i.e., as a customer spending money or employees reducing costs and increasing revenue, etc.). The impact that this appreciation event has on your company can be enormous. So let’s look at some of the things you need to consider.

Budget: Show me the money!

No matter how creative your ideas are, if you don’t have the budget to bring them into fruition, your efforts will be in vain. Therefore, determine how much you have to spend. If your budget is limited, add a sponsorship component to the event. For example, when I planned a member appreciation event at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, I had to raise funds to create my budget. With this task in mind, I created sponsorship levels that incorporated elements of baseball. The sponsorship levels were Home Run, Triple Play and Bull Pen. Sponsors were those vendors who wanted to meet and network with purchasing agents.  Creating these sponsorship levels provided a twofold benefit: funds to produce the event and access to decision makers.

Demographics: Who’s coming to my party?

Once your budget is defined, it’s time to focus on your attendees. Knowing their demographics will help you define and shape the appreciation event, because you’ll have to select the venue, food, entertainment and amenities to suit their needs.

This brings to mind a destination appreciation event I planned in Hawaii.  The demographics of my attendees ranged from owners of the company to employees; from Generation Y to Baby Boomers, with a few children under the age of 5; and from couples t0 single attendees.

How was I going to create an environment that would meet the divergent needs of this group?  I focused on the common need people have to feel special. Keeping this in mind, I created an itinerary that catered to the attendees with meal options (including cash to go off-property), a variety of activities ranging from helicopter rides dolphin swims and underwater marine trips to more relaxing activities, such as spa experiences, golf and waterside dining. Providing options allowed the company to individualize their appreciation event, giving each attendee a special experience.

Creativity: Make it memorable

Now that you know the demographics of your attendees and your budget is set, it’s time to make a creative statement with the design and execution of this appreciation event. The theme you choose should be consistently shown throughout the six A’s of event planning (adapted from Keller University):

  1. Anticipation (invitations)
  2. Arrival (registration)
  3. Atmosphere (environment)
  4. Appetite (food)
  5. Activity (entertainment)
  6. Amenity (event favors)

Let’s say you are planning the appreciation event at an aquarium; it’s safe to say that the theme of your appreciation event will be based around water, marine life, fish, dolphins and so on. You really want to make this creative, so brainstorm on different ways to incorporate this theme into your event, beginning with your invitation and ending with the amenity or gift attendees will take away from the event.

I attended a racing event where the organizer really got this right. My invitation arrived with a toy car, a miniature racing flag, invitation printed with racing graphics and racing-themed confetti. The presentation alone grabbed my attention and intrigued me enough to want to attend the event to see what else they had in store. I wasn’t disappointed. The planner weaved the racing theme through the event, reinforcing it at the registration area, in the menu choices, décor and entertainment. Overall, it was fun and memorable experience, which is what you need to create.

Bringing it all together: Create lasting memories

So the next time your boss tasks you with planning your company’s appreciation event don’t fret! Knowing your budget, demographics and theme is the best starting chance you have of developing a successful customer and/or client appreciation event.

And once they’ve experienced the memorable, fun and engaging program you’ve designed, your guests will be talking about and looking forward to what you might delight them with next year.